RSG explores issue of drone noise annoyance, proposes mitigation strategies

Burlington/Lake Champlain Region Serves as Model for National Research Paper Into Drone Noise Pollution

Vermont Business Magazine RSG has released the findings of a months-long study of drone noise pollution and outlined ways operators and communities can mitigate annoyance. The innovative white paper examines the impact of drone noise on communities in the United States and abroad and uses Vermont’s Burlington/Lake Champlain region as a model for a proposed solution.

The drone services market is projected to grow to $63.6 billion by 2025. The COVID-19 pandemic, which spurred demand for contactless delivery services, has further incentivized drones’ development and deployment. And just this past week, Amazon received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin delivering packages via Prime Air, its drone delivery service.

As drones enter the mainstream, communities will face new challenges related to their operations. For instance, in 2017 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration found that listeners consistently rank drone noise as more annoying than delivery trucks or cars. Subsequent research has confirmed these findings, and drone pilot programs abroad have generated resident noise complaints.

“Our paper looks at drone noise and proposes a proactive modeling solution that relies on using existing noise sources like roads and industrial activity to potentially mask the sound of drone operations,” said Eddie Duncan, INCE Bd. Cert., who is one of the paper’s authors. “Most folks are familiar with the buzzing sound from drones, but we wanted to explain what causes it, what it means for annoyance, and what can be done to lessen it. Based on some of the negative drone noise annoyance experiences in other regions and countries such as Australia, we also wanted to show that it’s possible to proactively plan for these issues rather than waiting for resident noise complaints to start trickling in after drones begin operating in an area.”

While the acoustical modeling approach proposed in the new white paper is theoretical at this point, the paper’s authors are confident it offers a workable and proactive solution to drone noise annoyance.

“As drone technology takes off, more communities will find themselves in the flight path of these delivery routes,” said Erica Wygonik, PhD, PE, who also helped author the paper and has conducted separate independent research into drone emissions in the past. “It is not a matter of if but when in terms of drone delivery becoming more commonplace in communities across the United States.”

About RSG: RSG’s noise control engineering and acoustical consulting services help clients research and evaluate noise impacts and develop sensible mitigation/optimization plans. Using advanced monitoring systems and following applicable standards, we can quantify sound levels in all environments. We combine noise data with advanced modeling methods to project future noise impacts by predicting how sound will propagate from proposed projects. We are unique among acoustical consultants in our ability to integrate relevant capabilities outside of traditional acoustical analyses such as advanced statistical approaches, advanced communication tools, surveying, and analytical modeling. As industry-leading experts, we work with both public and private-sector clients and have amassed an impressive collection of peer reviewed research for federal, state, and local governments.